Three Alaskan women make case for 2nd Amazon HQ in Anchorage
It's a public bidding process like nothing economic development leaders have ever seen, and Anchorage’s name will be added to the list of American cities who want to become home to Amazon’s second headquarters.
The city that makes a deal is looking at a $5 billion investment by Amazon and more than 50,000 well-paying jobs. While Amazon is looking for a city with excellent public transportation and at least a million residents, a number greater than the population of the entire state of Alaska, a group of three women are hoping Alaska’s incredible scenery and unmatched outdoor playground will get Amazon’s attention.
“There's no other place on the planet that is as beautiful and as incredible to be able to walk outside your door and have this,” said Carmen Baker, gesturing toward downtown Anchorage and a view of Denali on the horizon. “No place.”
“We may not have everything they want, but we have everything they need,” said Meg Stapleton, who is spearheading the effort.
Together, Baker, her sister Elaine Baker and Stapleton are preparing a packet of letters -- stories of Alaska and the people who call it home -- to send to Amazon, among proposals from dozens of cities in the U.S.
There isn’t an official proposal and it doesn’t include any officials offers of tax breaks or plans.
Bill Popp, president and CEO of Anchorage's Economic Development Corporation says logistically, if the municipality made a serious bid, they could be biting off more than Anchorage can chew.
“We like the enthusiasm for this project,” he explained, however, “If we were actually to be successful in landing this project, do we have the ability to deliver on what Amazon is looking for? So for example, we'd need to have a half a million square foot building available immediately.”
According to Amazon’s request for proposal, the initial square foot requirement is 500,000 for phase I, needed by 2019. The total Square foot requirement is up to 8,000,000, needed beyond 2027.
The RFP also says, “Amazon is considering greenfield sites, infill sites, existing buildings, or a combination for the Project. If existing buildings are available that can be retrofitted or expanded within an acceptable budget and time schedule, Amazon may consider this option; however, the company acknowledges that existing buildings may not be available to meet its requirements.”
“There is always the chance of a dark horse, a smaller community below the million,” said Popp, but he says AEDC just couldn't commit the thousands of hours and billions of dollars in tax breaks other American cities are putting in their proposals.
“Nobody has ever seen anything of this scale,” he commented, referring to the public request for proposal process.
Still, Amazon will now know Anchorage's story, and the group of women behind it will know they tried to pull off the seemingly impossible.
“That’s the story of Alaska. Alaska has continued to make the impossible happen again, and again. The pipeline was down to one vote; the pipeline happened,” said Carmen Baker.
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